Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Review: A Snicker of Magic

This book caught my eye on our "new books" shelf a couple months ago. A Snicker of Magic was published in February of this year, and is the very first book by Natalie Lloyd Page. The bright cover caught my attention, and come on, who doesn't like ice cream? After watching it sit on the shelf, then reading someone else's rave review about it, I decided to give it a try.
I have not been a "middle grade" (typically 4th-6th) reader since I was in those grades myself. During the last year or so I have been on a YA kick, and just recently finished all of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. So diving into a smaller chapter book was a little strange for me. I was worried there would not be the character development that can come with longer books, but I had nothing to fear. This book was amazing.

Felicity Pickle (12 years old) lives with her mother and younger sister, and they are constantly on the move. They never seem to settle into any one place for very long before Felicity's mother gets the itch to leave and uproots them from their temporary home and school. When they arrive in Midnight Gulch, something is different. Felicity's mother grew up there, but there is definitely magic in the air. All her life Felicity has been able to see literal words around people and things, which she writes in journals or on her shoes, and in Midnight Gulch other people seem to have small amounts of magic as well. Even the ice cream is magical.

As the history of the town unfolds, friendships form and Felicity is hopeful they've finally found a place to really call home. There are many things in this book that kids can relate to -- being a little different and not fitting in, being the new kid in class, a single-parent home, wishing for friendship, the desire to help others, and more.

A few other people's blog posts that I've read are already calling for A Snicker of Magic to be a Newbery candidate. As I said earlier I don't have much experience with reading middle-grade, but I can definitely see why this book could become an award winner. Such amazing word-pictures, plot line, character development, and just enough magic to make it fictional, yet not so much to make it unbelievable. As Felicity would say, it's a "spindiddly" book!

This post does include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees. Your price does not change, but your purchase indirectly helps support this site.

Friday, May 23, 2014

One month and counting!

One month from today our Summer Reading Program begins! We're getting a bit of a late start this year as our local schools had something like 18 snow days and kids are going to be in school until June 20.
Hard to believe this was barely 3 months ago.
I'm farther ahead in my planning than I was this time last year -- I have performers booked, crafts and experiments figured out, storytime topics roughly planned, reading logs almost done. But I still have a lot to do in the two weeks before kids come in to register and pick up their first reading log.

The biggest task hanging over my head is calling local businesses to solicit donations. I sent out letters to them in mid-April, and a handful have responded on their own. But there are a bunch that I haven't heard from, and we rely on them for things ranging from free ice cream cone coupons to large end-of-summer prizes. It's just that 1) I don't like asking people for money and 2) I don't like talking on the phone.

Time to make some lists. It's finally warming up outside (temps in the 70s-80s this week!) so there's no denying it any longer. Summer is coming, and it's coming fast...

When does your summer programming start? What do you still have left to do?

P.S. It's also my oldest daughter's 4th birthday today. :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Storytime Session: Music & Movement

When my regular-session storytime ended, I couldn't bear the thought of those poor parents and kids with nothing to do on Friday mornings until our summer reading program starts in mid-June! I had heard a number of other libraries talking about their music and movement, jump & jive, etc. programs and thought it might go over well with our kids.

There are a handful of songs my storytime kids love that we used to do regularly, but I got into the habit of choosing songs and rhymes that fit our weekly topics instead. I thought this Music & Movement program would be the perfect way for the kids to enjoy those songs, and I advertised it as such:

I ripped songs from my collection of cds onto my computer, then created a playlist of nine songs and burned them to a cd. We start with lots of movement, mellow down a bit, pause to read a single book (which is a great opportunity for me to just pick some of my favorites that don't always fit into regular storytime!), then finish with a few more big songs.


"Wait a minute! We're fish! We don't take showers..."
This was from the very first week, where I had 7 kids.
We doubled in size the following week!

And I love it too.
  1. The parents appreciate that I don't need any registration or notice of whether or not they will be there, since how many kids we have each week has no effect on what we do (no craft supplies, chairs to set out, etc.). 
  2. There is no additional planning for me, other than pulling a single book off the shelf to read, so I really do get a break from storytime.
  3. I get 20 minutes of aerobic exercise. :)
  4. I now have essentially a "sub plan." If there is ever a week, even during the regular-session, that I suddenly cannot be there, all any staff needs to do is pop the cd in the player and let the kids have fun.
I am totally going to keep this program going. I'll have it during August, once summer reading is done but our regular-session hasn't started up yet. I'll have it in December, since that was the time when I only had 2 kids show up for my storytimes anyway. It truly gives me a break, yet still offers something for kids and families to do at the library on a weekly basis. 

Here is my current list of songs -- I might tweak it later, add or take away a song or two. It lasts about 25 minutes. 
  1. Shake Your Sillies Out - The Wiggles, Yummy Yummy
  2. Hot Potato - The Wiggles, Yummy Yummy
  3. The Goldfish - Laurie Berkner, The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band
  4. If You're Happy and You Know It - Twin Sisters Productions, 30 Toddler Songs
  5. Twinkle Twinkle - Twin Sisters Productions, 30 Nursery Rhyme Songs
  6. Moon Moon Moon - Laurie Berkner, Whaddya Think of That (I changed a few of the motions to this one)
  7. These Are My Glasses - Laurie Berkner, Whaddya Think of That
  8. pause to read a book
  9. Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) - Laurie Berkner, Whaddya Think of That (we just sleep on the verses, and run and jump and stuff during the wimoweh)
  10. We Are the Dinosaurs - Laurie Berkner, Whaddya Think of That
Yup it's heavy on LB. But those are the cds I found in my stash when I took this job, and YouTube has great videos with the motions to the songs. I'm sure as time goes on I'll discover other great artists, but this is what we've got for now. :)

This post does include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees. Your price does not change, but your purchase indirectly helps support this site.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fancy Nancy Soiree 2014

An annual tradition at my library is a Fancy Nancy Party. This was my first time doing it, so I took what has been done in the past, searched Pinterest, and had a blast. I might even use the ideas for my own daughter's 4th birthday this summer. :)

We had to limit the number of people who could attend, due to only having space to comfortably seat 30 people at tables and chairs. Next year I plan to offer the party twice in the same week, as we had a handful of people on our waiting list this year.
I managed to fit into an old bridesmaid dress,
and fancied it up with a feather boa.

"Center stage" for photo opportunities.
Because of the FN book I was planning to read,
I brought my own wedding dress and
put it on display at the entrance. 
Found these fancy words in the
book Fancy Nancy Tea Parties
When girls arrived, they were asked to sign their autograph, then find their assigned seats at a table, and begin decorating their tiaras. The foam tiaras are from Oriental Trading, as are the sticky gems - which I scattered on the table as decorations. 
The punch bowl was also available at the beginning, I ended up mostly using the recipe found here, but added some cranberry juice to darken the pink color. 
Girls were encouraged to borrow some of my extra accessories, to make themselves even more fancy (hurray for the dollar store)!

Once everyone had arrived (well, nearly everyone - we did have two no-shows) I greeted the girls with as much fancy flair as I could muster, using words like bonjour and magnifique. I introduced our two special guests, Miss Belding and Junior Miss Belding (our town has an annual pageant).

While the girls sat at the tables and finished their tiaras and sipped their punch, I read the newest FN book: Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century.
The queens then led the girls on a parade around the library, showing off their fanciness to staff and patrons. While they were out, a couple parents and I set out cupcakes. A very generous gal who works in the deli at our local grocery store volunteered to make cupcakes for us for free!!
After our snack, we played Fancy Nancy Bingo. I just used the game boards that had been used in previous years, though I did seriously consider these really cute bingo cards from Etsy. I had a few copies of the FN book Bonjour Butterfly that I had gotten really cheap at a Scholastic Warehouse Sale that I gave away as prizes.
All of the girls moved to the floor in the center of the room, and Miss Belding read the FN book Too Many Tutus. An early-reader book of that type was PERFECT for her to read, as she was really scared and claimed she couldn't "read as well and as dynamic as you". She ended up doing a fabulous job, and the girls loved being read to by a queen! :)
(This would have been the PERFECT opportunity to get a photo of all the girls and the queens, but I forgot. We did get a photo later with most of the girls, though some families had already left.)

At this point I gave the girls instructions about the last few activities they could do. The queens would be available for photos, all of my FN books were on display and could be checked out, and we had a butterfly scavenger hunt. I put ten colored, numbered butterflies around the library and the girls had to find them and write down the colors. When they returned their paper to me they got a goody bag -- simply filled with candy (I scored after-Easter clearance for half price!) and some Fancy Nancy coloring pages.
I encouraged the girls to keep their earrings, hair clips, and of course their tiaras, but to please return the other items so we could plan to dress up again next year.

And that's it! It lasted almost exactly an hour and really was a ton of fun. I was SO glad I did this in April -- it's been in February in the past, which in Michigan always means snow. So the girls were able to wear spring-y dresses and strappy sandals without worry.

If you have any other questions about how I did things, please let me know! Here are a few other photos from the morning:
Goody bags and my other supplies

Monday, May 12, 2014

Reflections on my first full year of storytime

Between September 2013 and April 2014, I led 26 storytimes. We took a few weeks off in November and December, otherwise every Friday morning I led two groups: 18-36 month old kids and 3-5 year old kids. We went through the alphabet, focusing on one topic a week that started with a specific letter (there were a couple of weeks that we doubled up in order to finish when we wanted to). The two groups had basically the same format, almost always using the same books, songs, and rhymes, but the younger group finished each session with a coloring page while the older group did a letter craft.

I enjoyed having a specific schedule to keep to, and the kids enjoyed guessing each week what the topic would be based on what letter we were on. My alphabet crafts were a huge hit, many families requested the supplies for weeks they missed, as they were hanging all of the crafts around their bedrooms and playrooms.

Next year I plan to simply use topics again, somewhat seasonally. If I can get into a three-year rotation of storytime plans, most kids will have something fresh every year they come.

What I'm unsure about is how to break the groups. I offered three storytime sessions this year -- 0-18 months, 18-36 months, and 3-5 years. My baby group had 2-3 kids off and on for a few months, then after Christmas no one came. My other two groups averaged 6-7 kids a week. A few kids in the older class had younger siblings who could have attended the younger class, but of course parents only wanted to come once. During summer, we offer one storytime for all kids 2-5 years, and it's sometimes difficult to find crafts that all ages can do.

Currently, during my break between regular-session storytime and summer, I'm offering a Music & Movement program (a post on that is coming!) for all ages. I've had 14-15 kids each week. But dancing to music is something any age can easily do...

Maybe I'll see how this summer goes, and plan to expand my regular-session storytime into one larger group as well. But there's no way those 15-18 month old walking kids could fit in with either the little babies nor the 4 year old preschoolers... Hmm...

Any thoughts?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Catching My Breath

I've been a little absent from blogging the last couple of weeks. My regular session storytimes finished up the first week of April, and then I had a couple of big events to plan. Now the month of May is my time to take a breath and look ahead to summer reading. And gather donations for summer. And organize school visits. And host a weekly Music & Movement storytime. I guess it's not much of a break after all... :-P

I've got a few posts in the works about my Music & Movement program, Fancy Nancy party, and a book review. So [if there's even anyone out there who follows this blog], I'm not gone, nor do I plan to be - I'm just catching my breath and getting my ducks in a row for the chaos to come!

How do you spend your time between storytime sessions?